Critical Editions of Septuagint/Old Greek Texts

In response to questions about the best available critical editions of the so-called Septuagint or Old Greek (LXX/OG) for use in scholarly discussion and development, including electronically based research, the Executive Committee of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies offers the following rationale and recommendations.

The creation and propagation of a critical text of the LXX/OG has been a basic concern in modern scholarship. The two great text editions begun in the early 20th century are the Cambridge Septuagint and the Göttingen Septuagint, each with a "minor edition" (editio minor) and a "major edition" (editio maior). For Cambridge this means respectively H. B. Swete, The Old Testament in Greek (1909-1922) and the so-called "Larger Cambridge Septuagint" by A. E. Brooke, N. McLean, (and H. St. John Thackeray) (1906-). For Göttingen it denotes respectively Alfred Rahlfs's Handausgabe (1935) and the "Larger Göttingen Septuagint" (1931-). Though Rahlfs (editio minor) can be called a semi-critical edition, the Göttingen Septuaginta (editio maior) presents a fully critical text, as described below.

While both the Cambridge and Göttingen editions collect and organize textual evidence, they are based on different text-critical approaches. Whereas the Swete-Cambridge edition is "diplomatic" (see below) the Rahlfs-Göttingen edition is expressly "critical." The difference between them did not, however, arise from any theoretical disagreement but, instead, from practical considerations. Whereas in the Cambridge view a critical edition of the LXX/OG was premature, Göttingen judged that its time had come. The Cambridge Septuagint project has since lapsed (1940), but the Göttingen editio maior continues. The central importance of critical editions in modern Septuagint Studies and their continued development is, therefore, not in doubt.

Whereas a diplomatic edition uses as its base text a single, "best" manuscript, to which other textual evidence is collated and organized into an apparatus, a critical text of the LXX/OG may be described as a collection of the oldest recoverable texts, carefully restored book by book (or section by section), aiming at achieving the closest approximation to the original translations (from Hebrew or Aramaic) or compositions (in Greek), systematically reconstructed from the widest array of relevant textual data (including controlled conjecture). The Göttingen Septuagint features two apparatuses (as does the Larger Cambridge Septuagint), the first for LXX/OG textual evidence proper and the second for so-called hexaplaric evidence, i.e. "rival" translations/revisions of the translated LXX/OG (such as circulated under the labels "Theodotion," "Aquila," and "Symmachus"), preserved largely through the influence of Origen's Hexapla. For LXX/OG research the importance of both apparatuses is second only to the critical text itself.

Though in the nature of the case, the quest for each lost Greek original is without end, it is equally true that responsible research uses such critical texts as its starting point. Similarly, though the Greek original is not claimed to be superior to subsequent text-forms that have been generated (usually by revision of various sorts) in its transmission history, it nevertheless has logical as well as historical priority.

It follows from the above that electronic tools aimed at facilitating research on the Septuagintal materials – whether the LXX/OG as produced and published (the original text) or the LXX/OG as transmitted and received (i.e. its later history) – ought to make use of the best available critical editions as base text rather than non-critical editions, a practice which would have a regressive effect on scholarship.

The above statement was adopted by the Executive Committee of the IOSCS on the fourth day of April, 2005.

Recommended Critical Editions

I. Septuaginta. Vetus Testamentum Graecum Auctoritate Academiae Scientiarum Gottingensis editum, Göttingen, 1931– , 20 vol.:

  • Genesis (1974, J. W. Wevers)
  • Exodus (1991, J. W. Wevers, adiuvante U. Quast)
  • Leviticus (1986, J. W. Wevers, adiuvante U. Quast)
  • Numbers [Numeri] (1982, J. W. Wevers, adiuvante U. Quast)
  • Deuteronomy [Deuteronomium] (1977, J. W. Wevers, adiuvante U. Quast)
  • Ruth (2006, 20092, U. Quast).
  • 1 Ezra [Esdrae Liber I] (1974, R. Hanhart)
  • Ezra - Nehemiah [Esdrae Liber II] (1990, R. Hanhart)
  • Esther (1966, R. Hanhart)
  • Iudith [Iudith] (1979, R. Hanhart)
  • Tobit (1983, R. Hanhart)
  • 1 Maccabees [Maccabaeorum Liber I] (1936, 19672 W. Kappler)
  • 2 Maccabees [Maccabaeorum Liber II] (1959, 19762, W. Kappler, R. Hanhart)
  • 3 Maccabees [Maccabaeorum Liber III] (1960, 19802, R. Hanhart)
  • Psalms and Odes [Psalmi cum Odis] (1931, 19793, A. Rahlfs)
  • Job [Iob] (1982, J. Ziegler)
  • Wisdom of Solomon [Sapientia Salomonis] (1962, 19802, J. Ziegler)
  • Sirach [Sapientia Iesu Filii Sirach] (1965, 19802, J. Ziegler)
  • Minor Prophets [Duodecim Prophetae] (1943, 19672, J. Ziegler)
  • Isaiah [Isaias] (1939, 19672, J. Ziegler)
  • Jeremiah, Baruch, Lamentations, Epistle of Jeremiah [Ieremias-Baruch-Threni-Epistula Ieremiae] (1957, 19762, J. Ziegler)
  • Ezekiel (1952, J. Ziegler, 19782, J. Ziegler, suppl. D. Fraenkel)
  • Susanna, Daniel, Bel and the Dragon [Susanna-Daniel-Bel et Draco] (1954, J. Ziegler, 19992, O. Munnich).
  • Ecclesiastes (or Qoheleth) (2019, P. Gentry)
  • Psalms of Solomon [Psalmi Salomonis] (2018, F. Albrecht)

Subsequent volumes as they appear.

II. Septuaginta, id est Vetus Testamentum Graece iuxta LXX interpretes, A. Rahlfs, Stuttgart, 1935, 2 vol.:

  • Joshua [Iosue] (see also below)
  • Judges [Iudicum]
  • 1-2 Samuel or 1-2 Reigns [Regnorum I-II] (see also below)
  • 1-2 Kings or 3-4 Reigns [Regnorum II-IV] (see also below)
  • 1-2 Chronicles [Paralipomenon I-II] (see also below)
  • 4 Maccabees [Machabaeorum IV]
  • Proverbs [Proverbia]
  • Song of Songs [Canticum] (see also below)

Appendix: Other Valuable Critical Editions

  • Song of Songs (1996, J. Treat, Lost Keys: Text and Interpretation in Old Greek Song of Songs and its Earliest Manuscript Witnesses [Ph.D. Diss., University of Pennsylvania]). Available via Penn dissertations.
  • Samuel-Kings-Chronicles (1989-1996, N. Fernández Marcos - J. R. Busto Saiz, El texto antioqueno de la Biblia griega I-III, Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas.) Whether this text is LXX/OG, in the so-called Kaige sections, or recensional remains controversial.
  • Joshua (1931-1938 & 1992, Max L. Margolis, The Book of Joshua in Greek, Parts I-IV: Paris; Part V: Philadelphia [Preface, E.Tov]). This edition has an extensive, organized apparatus.